The jury that decided the arms charges against the Urewera accused should have gone to the Ruatoki area to see the context in which "military-style training camps" took place, a court has been told.
In the Court of Appeal at Wellington today the lawyer for Tame Wairere Iti, Russell Fairbrother, said he did not accept the military label but there was nothing inherently unlawful in what had happened at the camps.
None of the jury in the High Court at Auckland indicated they had been to the Ruatoki area, Mr Fairbrother said.
It was an area where carrying firearms was not particularly unusual and the jury should have been directed that they should look at the environment in which this occurred, he said.
It is nearly five years since the camps in Te Urewera ended with raids in many centres on October 15, 2007.
Of the more than 20 people charged only four were in the dock when the case went to trial.
Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Peter Signer and Emily Felicity Bailey were convicted for having firearms and restricted weapons but the jury could not agree whether they were guilty of taking part in an organised criminal group and that charge has since been halted.
Iti and Kemara were both sentenced to two and a half years jail, and Bailey and Signer were sentenced to nine months home detention at Parihaka.
They have appealed against their convictions and sentence.
Mr Fairbrother said the tikanga of the area was important to understand and it was a "remarkably" different world than Auckland.
The firearms charges called for the jury to decide if the accused had "lawful, proper and sufficient" for having the firearms and that involved knowing the unique character and nature of an area in which bush skills and hunting was part of the culture.
The shifting allegation against the Urewera accused - that armed uprising was a "plan B", not "plan A" to settle Tuhoe grievances - meant the trial was dominated by invalid considerations, an appeal hearing has been told.
When the contingent plan B could be decades away and was a sort of "anti-social contemplation" it could not have been an offence, lawyer Christopher Stevenson said in the Court of Appeal today.
The allegation was raised to support a charge of taking part in an organised criminal group but the four accused were acquitted on the charge.
Even though the jury acquitted on that charge it still meant the trial was dominated by an invalid factors, Stevenson said.
He was making submissions for Signer who was convicted of firearms charges as a result of raids in October 2007 that focussed on firearms training camps in the Ruatoki area in the months before that.
Stevenson said originally it was alleged the accused, Signer and his partner Bailey, with Tuhoe activist Iti, and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were intending to commit serious violence crimes.
By the time of the jury trial in the High Court at Auckland the Crown's allegation had been scaled back to allege that armed uprising was a "plan B" if peaceful means did not succeed in settling Tuhoe grievances.
Centuries ago imagining the death of the monarch was an offence and what the Crown was alleging in the Urewera trial went down that track, he said.
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